As November is on its last couple of days, I would like to look back on what these past few weeks have left us international students, living in our surrogate home. Many of us Student Union bloggers will probably be talking about Thanksgiving, a truly American holiday, and I will too, but I believe there are a couple of November traditions that are less discussed, that also deserve some space in these pages.
As Nareg pointed out in a previous post, Americans can find pretty interesting ways of turning insignificant dates into slightly more festive days, a fact he supported with examples such as Pi Day, held on March 14 (3/14) or the slightly darker April 20 (4/20).
But let’s start with the obvious one first. As you might know already, the fourth Thursday of the month is celebrated in America as Thanksgiving, when people get together with their families and are thankful for all the things they have. This day, also known as Turkey Day due to the major consumption of said bird, is characterized by family gatherings, large amounts of food ingestion, and a relaxed and jolly atmosphere all around (and, as Jessica let us know before, some other, weirder happenings).
Now, whether the story it comes from is real or not, this holiday is a favorite for a lot of Americans. It’s especially a favorite for college students who, in their first years living alone, have an excuse to spend some time with their families again (leaving small college towns like Lawrence totally deserted!).
And Thanksgiving Day is immediately followed by another big American tradition, Black Friday. The Friday after Thanksgiving is a day when many retail stores cut their prices by as much as even 60%. Considering those ridiculous deals and America’s big consuming culture, it’s no surprise to see the shopping craze that happens on this day.
Another holiday that is celebrated during this month, each November 11th, is Veteran’s Day. November 11, 1918 marked the signing of the armistice to end World War I. Since then, America pays respect to war veterans on that date in many ways, including services in church, flying flags at half-mast and even observing minutes of silence. Without trying to be controversial, I would say that even if you disagree with the war (being an international student I’d rather not take any side) you would probably agree with the statement “hate the war, not the soldier.”
Veteran’s Day landed on a very special day this year – 11/11/11, something that happens only once every 100 years. For those who make a wish every time they see their clock at 11:11, those waiting for the apocalypse, and those who can see something mathematically meaningful in that date, 11/11/11 didn’t pass unnoticed.
Finally, a slightly less serious holiday … holiday? The month of November is also marked as “No Shave November.” As the name clearly states, brave souls who dare to show their faces full of ungroomed hair celebrate by going the whole month without shaving. Mostly popular among college students, due to their still-developing capability of growing facial hair and their lack of responsibility to look professional, November sees many students showing off various states of wannabe-beards.
But this tradition wasn’t always just a funny joke, and apparently it wasn’t even created in the U.S. It seems to have started in Australia as a campaign to generate awareness of prostate cancer. The movement is called “Movember,” and participants shave their faces but grow out a well-groomed moustache for the month. Movember has grown globally and raised millions of dollars in the war against this disease.
I myself was involved last year in a No Shave November fundraiser at the University of Kansas. Women get to pick a guy and sponsor us to stop shaving, donating money to St Jude’s Memorial Hospital for every week we went without shaving. And this doesn’t just happen in Kansas; we did this through a nationally sponsored event.
So, No Shave November might not be as well-known as Thanksgiving or as widely revered as Veteran’s Day, but it is both a responsible and fun month-long event that unites people from all over the country in a very particular tradition … and, as you can see in the pictures, in constant and prolonged embarrassment.